Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Review of The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman

By Kim


In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there's an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers. Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit--and the strength of memory.

About the author:

Alyson Richman is the author of The Mask Carver's Son, Swedish Tango, The Last Van Gogh, and The Lost Wife. She loves to travel, cook, ride her yellow bicycle, and do ballet. She currently lives in New York with her husband and two children.

My review:

I want to start by telling you a story. I know this may seem an odd way to open a book review, but there’s reason for it.

My seventh grade language arts teacher was horrified to learn that our school district’s history curriculum would barely touch on the Holocaust. She felt the only way to prevent such atrocities from happening again was to educate the younger generations. We read Elie Wiesel’s Night in class and learned to spell gestapo and crematorium. We watched unflinching documentaries and movies about concentration camps. My amazing teacher also found several Holocaust survivors and spent at least a month’s worth of weekends shuttling groups of her students all over Maine so we could interview them. The woman I met was an Auschwitz survivor named Marta, a towering workhorse of a woman with a kind, homely face. What struck me most was that even as she described beatings, rapes, starvation, and constant fear of execution, she prefaced everything by saying how lucky she was. She was lucky to be ugly. Pretty girls were sent to the front to “service” the S.S. soldiers and were shot if impregnated. (Her sister met this fate.) She was lucky to be big because she was strong and could do heavy labor. (Her frail mother was gassed). The lack of emotion as she spoke left a lasting impression on me.

Since then I’ve seen every WWII movie and read every book on the Holocaust that I can find. I learned about The Lost Wife from my friend, historical novelist Stephanie Cowell, who has never led me wrong in her book recommendations. At the end of the prologue my jaw dropped and I knew there was no way I could put the book down until I learned what had happened to Lenka and Josef. By thirty pages in, I knew it would be on my 2012 Best Reads list. I devoured this novel during every stolen moment alone, which took some creativity with two energetic kids home for Christmas break. The love story made me ache. The atrocities of Terezin and Auschwitz were described in an understated and horrifically beautiful way. I could hear Marta’s voice behind Lenka’s, and it was like I discovered hell right along with them.

If you are drawn to WWII era books, The Lost Wife is a must-read. If you are a sucker for unconventional romances, The Lost Wife is a must-read. If you want a book with characters who will haunt your dreams and make you Google “Terezin” at 3 AM…head to the nearest bookstore or download this book right away.

Have you read The Lost Wife? I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can leave comments here or (since some people have difficulty leaving comments on Blogger) on What Women Write’s Facebook page.


  1. Loved the review. How very good to know that your teacher cared enough to teach your class about the Holocaust. Having known people who went through that horrible time, it is paramount that it not be forgotten. We, who remember that terrifying battle to save the world from a madman and his followers, cannot imagine how anyone could go a long with Hitler's so called "solution." It should never happen again, but sadly, it is still happening in many countries to Christians, Jews, and others.

    I read some of the first pages of "Lost Wife," on Amazon, and I understand why you found it so intriguing. Bill gave me a Kindle for Christmas, along with a promise of "3 books" so it will be one of my choices. Thanks so much for writing such a compelling review.

  2. Sounds like a book I need to get my hands on. Thanks for the review, Kim.

  3. You're welcome, Julie!

    Aunt Betty, I did indeed have a wonderful teacher. I still keep in touch with her from time to time.

  4. Wow, Kim. We all have at least one amazing teacher story (which is why I believe they are so undervalued/underpaid in our society), but yours is a topper. You know I'm in. In fact, I'm downloading today, so I don't forget.

  5. You will love this book, Vaughn!

    Yes, Nancy was a fantastic teacher. She had been Montessori trained and tried very hard to incorporate those principles into teaching in a public school. I wonder if she ever actually told the administration that she devised a whole other curriculum for me. She saw that I was ahead of everyone else and she pulled me aside and told me I no longer had to be in a reading group - to go to the library and pick out something that interested and challenged me. When I finished I would talk to her about the book for a few minutes and then go pick another. For writing she told me not to do the assignments, but to write whatever I wanted. At the end of the semester I turned in a novella! She told me not to worry about grades - I had A's as long as she saw I challenged myself. Thanks to her I was about two years ahead in English when I started high school, and she is the reason I'm a writer today.

    As far as I'm concerned, teachers should make twice as much as they do. I never understand why some parents treat them like glorified babysitters when they do so much to shape the next generation. I do everything I can to help them work with my children and don't hesitate to shoot a note to the principal and tell her what gems she has in the classroom.

    I know you had problems commenting before. I wonder what you did differently this time, or if it was something on Blogger's end? It seems lots of people, especially if they use Internet Explorer, can't leave comments. Very frustrating for all involved.

  6. Kim, I had a 6th grade teacher than let me 'run out ahead' of the class, reading wise. He even bought me books with his own money (LoTR box set), and I credit him with being a big part of my journey to write.

    I was suprised, but I think my success in posting is due to my now having a gmail address. I selected google as my profile, and voila! I can finally post here--yay!

  7. Interesting...I wonder if that is the problem for other people, too...

    Gotta love teachers that do things like that. My daughter's first grade teacher (current) constantly gives her harder math assignments when she finishes her work early. She knows how my kid's mind works, too, because when she hands it over she says, "I don't know, Sweetie, this is really hard. I'm not sure you can do it yet." Of course she takes that as a challenge and proceeds to do it perfectly. :-) She did not get her math skills from me.

  8. I just finished The Lost Wife. It was brilliant in every way. So glad your Mom (and You) recommended it to me.


  9. Hi I am from India.After watching movies like ''Schindler's list and The pianist'',I tried to learn more about holocaust and what n why it happened.Unfortunately history taught in our schools didn't even mention about holocaust.I was shocked when I learnt about it from internet and movies n documentaries. I just couldn't understand how can a human being be so cruel to another human. Why? Why such cruelty. Till now I am unable to understand the reason behind a person's such terrible actions to another person.

    After reading the lost wife,I was so touched with the story and the way it was narrated.I loved Lenka and her friends and the show of determination to survive and what touched me the most was not her love for josef but for her family.The loyalty and love for her family really shook me.

    After reading this book,I can say for sure about one thing that I appreciate the available resources and freedom even more.And most of all I finally understood the meaning and preciousness of family. I cried whole night after reading this book.It made me think that the way Jews were targeted and were killed and the antisemitism feeling that grew.Isn't that kind of hatred feeling brewing in Western world and in my own country now for Muslims?

    I am a God loving Hindu girl from India.But after reading such atrocities I cannot understand why God didn't protect the innocent? In our Hinduism religion,we believe that whatever God does he does it for the well being of the good people.But I couldn't understand what good came out of Holocaust.I am confused with what to believe.I love God but I want to know why he was silent to the sufferings of millions.Why.


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